Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hiding Place FAIL and Tea Swaps

I was killing time on Failblog the other day when I stumbled upon this image, which made me chuckle.  When humor is applicable to real life situations, it's always funnier to me.  The reason I found this humorous is because every time I order a package of tea, my UPS driver or USPS Carrier do the exact same thing.  I assume they believe my large green doormat provides the same level camoflauge you'd expect from an elite military covert operation.   Truthfully, it just lets me (and everyone else) know as I'm driving past my house to pull into my driveway that my tea is here.  It's a good thing that people in my city only drink Starbucks.  ^__^

Hobbes, your package is on the way.  I spent the afternoon today sampling some of these teas as I was packaging them up for you.  Remarkable to see how just a few months can affect the flavour of this stuff.  One of the teas I'm sending out came from China, made it's way to the UK, spent a few months with me in the states, and is now making it's way back to Oxford.  I would be interested to see how the same teas would age in different parts of the world under similar storage conditions.  If anyone else is interested in doing a swap, please let me know.    

Also, if anyone has any good shou recommendations, I'm all ears.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I'm starting to find that all of my young sheng have many similarities in taste.  This may be in part due to the fact that my tastebuds have been craving something completely different.  I went out for sushi the other day and had a cup of Houji'cha and my eyes shot up immediately because it was a taste I hadn't experienced in so long.  When I first started drinking pu-erh, I was amazed by the smoke, the camphor, the melon, the nutty, and all the other subtle flavours that are present in so many of the teas I have.  After a while, it all started blending together and I wanted to try something else.  Made it difficult to pull enough inspiration out of each cup to merit sharing my thoughts.  

Initially, I had this notion that sheng was superior to shou.  In many respects, I believe that to be true but only in the proper context.  Even asking friends, they've all said they'd prefer aged raw tea.  This made me wonder, if it's superior, then why the hell is there a market for shou?  This was quickly dismissed when I thought further about those poor excuses for tea that come in cute little bags filled with nothing but dust and fannings.  I just chalked it up to "people probably just don't know any better."  I made my purchases and never bought shou.  I just stuck to my young shengs and I was perfectly content until that moment when I realized that drinking only young pu-erh is like asking a six year child old to build a theremin and understand exactly how it works; then asking him to play Barrios' Las Abejas on it.  

End result:  A lot of dreaming with no real delivery.

Once this thought hit me, I again revisited my "why the hell is there even a market for shou" thought and this time I rode it out a little more.  I've got a pretty healthy collection of pu-erh that I know will serve me well throughout the remaining years of my life.  The idea behind shou is that it is supposed to get a tea closer to what it will taste like when it is mature by cooking it.  This sounds great, but a big part of me still said "but isn't that why I'm aging my teas?"  Absolutely, that's why I'm aging my teas, but I'm also starting to see the limitations of what young sheng can do for me.  I had the pleasure of tasting a Xiaguan tea from the early 1980's and it blew me away.  The soup was a colour unlike anything I had seen.  The complexity of each cup, and a texture I had not experienced before.  The way it danced with my taste buds.  It reminded me that aging my collection will truly be a rewarding experience and give me some amazing teas to accompany whatever it is old-man Jamus will enjoy doing.  But what about now?  What am I supposed to do when I'm starting to taste so many similarities between all these young teas, topping it off with the fact that young sheng is harsh on your stomach:  Easy, try something else for a while.

I bought a couple of cooked cakes recently; one of them being a 12 Gentlemen Chun Ya Shen Yun.  I have had it around a month and a half now, but hadn't cracked it open until tonight.  First thing I noticed was the aroma.  Very different than the rest of the teas I've had lately.  Very nutty, reminded me of a roasted oolong.  Sweet aftertaste and much darker leaves.  A crimson red soup.  All new things.  That roasted flavour carried through in each cup and it suddenly made itself new again.  Definitely wasn't as good as a truly aged pu-erh like the 80's Xiaguan I had, but I now understand that there is a market for it for a very good reason.  I really enjoyed it.  

To this point, I must admit that I am ignorant when it comes to shou.  This is one humble man's attempt at asking for help.  Where do I begin?  What do you like?  I've got the notion to walk forward and discover this side of pu-erh; I just need to know which direction to face.  

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Little Buddhas

My eldest sister lost her pet of over ten years yesterday; a cat named Morris.  I stopped by her place last night to talk with her for a little bit and give her my sympathy.  She told me that it was a very quick thing; he was fine when she got home, and then he started to cough and laid down on the floor.  By the time she made her way over to him, he was already beginning to check out.  She watched the life disappear from his eyes while she held him in her arms, but knew he didn't appear to be in any sort of discomfort.  It made me wonder if he knew it was coming and decided to wait for her so he could say goodbye.  The depth of cats is amazing to me.  They always seem to know what you're feeling and respond to it accordingly.  They're extremely social without being needy.  Nor do they ask for much from us aside from our love (and food).  It's almost like they're little buddhas in disguise.  

Monday, October 13, 2008

Back in Business

I finally bought a new camera so I can finally catch up on all the pictures I've been meaning to take for the past couple months.  A lot of new additions to my collection and many stories to share.  For now, I've got a couple of things to tend to.  Hopefully a real update this evening.  

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Late nights and Old Shoes (06 Twelve Gentlemen Yi Wu)

There's just something about a quiet evening alone in the early fall when I feel content, no matter what is going on in my life. That favourite old pair of shoes come out of the closet on nights when you don't remember just how many cigarettes you've smoked. Walking home with a friend and forgetting to turn down your own street because it didn't really matter. It's that time of year when I just don't worry. Tonight I am drinking a 2006 Twelve Gentlemen Yi Wu that I ordered from Nada a little while back. I've been drinking a lot more tea now that the weather is starting to cool down a bit. I'm taking the extra five minutes to brew a cup for the drive to work, even if it means I'll be a minute or two late. Last winter, I had a really good hand for timing and water temperature. This year, I'm consistent with water temperature, but not so much with time. For that reason, I've decided to use a tea timer to help me get back on track. I figure that by staying consistent, I'll even gain some insight on what has happened to my teas this summer while I was drinking water (or beer) instead. Here's the times I'm starting with. I'll adjust if I need to.

Rinse - 15 sec
2nd Rinse - 15 sec (only for cooked)
1st - 15 sec
2nd - 12 sec
3rd - 25 sec
4th - 35 sec
5th - 50 sec
6th - 1 min 15 sec
7th - 1 min 25 sec
8th - 1 min 35 sec
9th - 1 min 45 sec
10th - 2 min

Also, brewing in yixing clay with water filtered through a charcoal filter.

This was a fairly enjoyable tea, and I'm glad I have a chance to taste it. It's smooth, clean, and leaves my teeth feeling like I just had a flouride treatment. The soup is thick enough to make up for the fact that it doesn't really have any mysteries. Small choppy leaves which have made quite a pile in my mesh strainer. Kind of a caramel/maple aroma to it. I honestly thought it was just going to be a straight shooter, because the first five infusions were all pretty bland. Not bad, just not terribly exciting.

At the sixth infusion, it did it's first trick for me. It started to tease the tip of my tongue a little bit. I'm not feeling any kind of lift from it, like I do with some of my other teas, but the added bit of ku along with that tingle isn't bad. It seems to go on forever, and the flavour really hasn't weakened at all after seven infusions. If anything, it's become more prominent. It definitely has a sweetness to it. All in all, a pretty good tea. I must say I'm far more impressed with it's later delivery than what it did early on. I went eight sessions with it, although I'm totally convinced I could go more. I'll leave it overnight and try it again in the morning with breakfast. Final thoughts: This was a consistent tea with good texture. I enjoyed the taste; even moreso at the end of the run. I still don't think I'd pay $76USD for it, but a sample is definitely worth investing in.